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Automotive Dealers May Be The Biggest Obstacle To Electric Vehicle Adoption In The US

The three largest automotive markets in the world are China, the US, and Europe. Two of these markets are moving faster toward the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), and the US is not one of them. Granted, we in the US are moving that direction, and the pace has been escalating in recent years, but we’re still dragging our feet.


Most of the reasons one might hear or read about why the US is transitioning more slowly tend to be about the price of EVs, the lack of sufficient public charging, recharging time, or the lack of EV driving range on a full charge. All those things do have some kind of impact and basis in reality, even if some of it might be purely based on the habits of gasoline fueled transport and not due to inherent issues with EVs themselves. I am pointing out that range and charging time are less of an issue than people make it out to be. I believe we have a bigger problem, or at least a problem that is more pernicious and stubborn. That problem is the car dealers that most manufacturers have to work with. Far too many of them are resistant to selling EVs because they feel it threatens their businesses, indeed their very way of life.

According to Slate, the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) spent more more money on political lobbying efforts last year than the NRA. Auto dealers also happen to be one of the five most common professions among the top 1% of American earners and more than 20% of car dealerships in the US have an owner making more than $1.5 million, per year. So, clearly, auto dealerships have a huge stake in the game, namely their wealth. While there is nothing wrong with making money, car dealerships are actively trying to slow our transition to a more sustainable transportation future and have been making consumers pay for the privilege of doing so. To be clear, not all car dealerships are doing this, and NADA is doing some of it for them.

Why are they doing this? As I said, it’s all about the money. EVs have far fewer parts, require less maintenance, and it is very expensive to retrain employees, retool service centers, and install electric charging infrastructure (as manufacturer’s are trying to do). Car dealers are simply not wanting to change because it means they will lose money. It isn’t so hard to empathize, in principle, but when the result of their greed is the perpetuation of air pollution and climate change, then its time to seriously consider changing the way we do business with them, or simply not to do business with them at all. But how can we do that?

Start by doing some research on the dealership(s) you might patronize, and find out who actually owns it and, if possible, who they might be making political donations to or lobbying as that will give you a sense for whether they are resistant to doing what we can to reduce our dangerous dependency on oil. Observe whether they might actually be trying to promote change by stocking a lot of EV models, by offering good, customer centered service for the electric vehicles they sell and not gouging people with excessive markups or ridiculously expensive EV repair costs (which you can read numerous stories about in social media groups for various plug-in vehicles). One car company is primarily responsible for the US’s accelerating electrification, Tesla (and Tesla does not use a dealership sales model, and they are not the only ones that eschew dealers). And so, you could consider buying an EV from a manufacturer that does not use dealers, or find an independent dealer that isn’t a dues paying member of NADA, or buy a used vehicle from a private party. All are perfectly legitimate ways to send a message to dealers that are trying to stop the electrification of our transportation.

You may not accept that humans are changing the climate most significantly due to how much oil consume for transportation. Or you may happen to support the causes or party the majority of the funding US auto dealers are leveraging in their anti-environmental goals. That’s fine, everyone has the right to their own opinions and it’s a free country, but the facts are the facts. Our opinions don’t change them. If you’re happy to let dealer’s wring more profit out of you than is fair or reasonable, that’s your choice. If you are not interested in helping create cleaner air and a safer, more stable environment, that’s your choice too. But remember, we all have to live with the ramifications of the choices we make. Why not choose a better path?

Please leave any comments or questions below.

Image courtesy of Justin Hart.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.